Judge stops case against Lord Nazir as trial collapses

Judge says Crown Prosecutors have behaved in a disgraceful way and have “sabotaged this trial and caused it to abort”

Tuesday, March 09, 2021
A picture of Lord Nazir smiling. Photo: STEFANOS KOURATZIS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

LONDON: The Sheffield Crown Court has ruled that the trial against Lord Nazir Ahmed, following allegations of sexual assault, cannot proceed due to “disgraceful” actions of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and a systematic failure that has not only caused the trial to collapse but also put the three defendants at a disadvantage from accusations dating back to half a century.

On 26 February 2021, Judge Jeremy Richardson QC, sitting at the Sheffield Crown Court, discharged the jury in the trial of former Labour peer Lord Nazir, but there was a reporting ban until the judgement was made public today at the court by the judge.

Judge Jeremy Richardson QC said the Crown Prosecutors had “sabotaged this trial and caused it to abort” as the process of disclosures was “disgraceful”.

Lord Nazir’s defence team, headed by Imran Khan QC, had argued that the trial must be stopped because the prosecution had failed to disclose key evidence to Lord Nazir at the right time, did not carry out a proper investigation, and allowed the evidence to be lost and contaminated by the claimants/accusers M and F. Both the claimants cannot be named for legal reasons but both are close relatives of Lord Nazir.

The judge said he was “shocked and appalled” at the manner in which evidence was disclosed to Lord Nazir knowing that the case was antique – over 50 years old – and how it undermined the whole justice process.

The judge said at the last hearing the crown asked “for one more bite of the cherry” if they clear up the mess which is “completely unacceptable”.

The judge had three options before him: to order a retrial; order a temporary stay of indictment by executing case management powers; or order permanent stay.

The judge remarked the allegations in this case are extremely old and although it was his duty to ensure the trial must be fair, its integrity must not be undermined. He said that the situation changed irredeemably as facts emerged and although the claimants are “likely to be annoyed but a permanent stay must be imposed”.

Detailed judgment

Reading out the judgment in full, the judge said the prosecution says this is a strong case against Lord Nazir and his brothers but “in my view it is not”.

“The fact that I harbour misgivings is neither here nor there,” said the judge, adding he was responsible for the trial and “I must ensure it is fair and that the integrity of the administration of justice is not be undermined by the trial process”.

The judge said that it appeared from the material available to him that F – the female relative of Lord Nazir — appeared to have a “high level of dislike” for him and “her demeanour is curious”.

The judge said he was “extremely concerned by the police failure to follow reasonable lines of enquiry”.

He said it took the prosecution 13 months to disclose evidence to Lord Nazir and his brothers and there were several other failures. He said if he listened to the request of the prosecution to order a retrial then “the complainants may feel cheated and the public may demand that justice is done”.

On the merits of the actual case, the judge said that in his view it was not a strong case, the allegations were vague, and he was not sure if all counts would have survived.

The judge said the “disclosure regime is not merely a lamentable failure but disgraceful and has caused the trial to collapse” and “it is disgraceful to disclose at such a late stage as this case is exceptional, so exceptional a case” that he was “nothing short of appalled”.

He said that the late disclosure of an incendiary device has blown the case open. It is understood the judge was referring to a phone recording of the two claimants which established that the evidence was contaminated and the prosecution and the claimants colluded with each other.

“It is irremediably changed and degraded and I’m putting an end to the agony of it continuing. The Defendants have not been found guilty.”

Lord Nazir was on trial along with his two brothers Mohammed Farouq and Mohammed Tariq in relation to charges of a sexual nature, made by a brother and sister who claimed these offences took place over 50 years ago. During the trial, the prosecutors relied only on allegations and failed to come up with any credible proof. The accused denied the charges throughout.

Lord Nazir Ahmed said he is seeking legal advice over Malicious Prosecution. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said it would appeal the decision at the Court of Appeal.